Wed, Nov 21, 2007 - Page 2 News List

NCC draft law criticized by media watch groups

HEARING The law has been scrutinized for giving large corporations more power by removing all the previous controls and for raising the cap on overseas investment

By Shelley Shan  /  STAFF REPORTER

A representative from Taiwan Media Watch protests against the draft of a new communications law produced by the National Communications Commission outside Chunghua Telecom yesterday.

PHOTO: CNA

Representatives from Taiwan Media Watch and 67 other civic groups gathered outside Chunghwa Telecom yesterday morning, saying that they refused to endorse the draft of a new communications law produced by the National Communications Commission (NCC).

The new law will integrate the three existing communication laws -- the Satellite and Broadcasting Law (衛星廣播電視法), Cable Radio and the Television Law (有線廣播電視法) and Broadcasting and Television Law (廣播電視法) -- and will be used to arbitrate on issues in an age of digital convergence.

The NCC held the first hearing in September to discuss the first draft of the new law. The administration was scheduled to hold the second hearing yesterday to talk about the second draft, which has taken into account suggestions from interest groups that attended the first hearing, as well as other unresolved issues.

Media Watch president Kuan Chung-hsiang (管中祥) said the second draft did not include any suggestions delivered by civil groups in the first hearing.

Rather, Kuan said, the commission has aligned itself with private corporations, lifting many restrictions previously used to regulate the media.

"The meeting inside [Chunghwa Telecom] is the commission's private hearing with big business," he said.

Kuan also mentioned they opposed the draft because it frees the network operators from paying the government special fees that could be used to support the universal telecommunications service.

Kuan noted that the second draft allows overseas investors to own up to 49 percent of shares in the nation's broadcast television companies.

Meanwhile, the law gives large corporations more liberty to run different media outlets by removing all previous controls.

Moreover, the draft has drastically reduced penalties for media operators who break the law.

Also, the law does not specify the exact percentage of television programs to be locally produced, he said.

Lo Shih-hung (羅世宏), an assistant professor at National Chung Cheng University's Graduate Institute of Telecommunications, criticized the commission's casual and irresponsible attitude when stipulating the law. While the first hearing lasted three days, the hearing yesterday lasted a day.

They [the commissioners] don't have to wait until next year to resign," Lo said. "They could just step down today [yesterday]."

In response, NCC spokesperson Howard Shyr (石世豪) said the fact that the chairman of the hearing yesterday allowed representatives from the Taiwan Media Watch to present their case without signing up demonstrates the commission has done its best to communicate with civic groups.

Shyr said that the group has issued many false statements.

He said the commission has displayed all the relevant information regarding the new communication law on its official Web site, which essentially answered all the questions raised by Taiwan Media Watch.

Shyr indicated that the special fee was collected only from cable service operators and was going to be used for three purposes. This involves how the budget should be allocated and how the fees collected from a sector are able to subsidize the operation of a completely different sector, he said.

"Any public policy should be discussed in a professional manner," he said. "Irrational verbal disputes are simply meaningless."

Based on information provided by NCC, 49 percent cap on overseas investors' shareholding is applied to regulate telecommunication service operators, not broadcast television operators.

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